Mercedes-Benz US CEO sees better sales ahead image

Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz premium auto division expects year-on-year U.S. sales growth in the next few months and the potential to increase its U.S. market share next year, U.S. Chief Executive Ernst Lieb said on Monday.

Mercedes, which has seen its U.S. sales fall 20 percent so far this year, posted a 21.3 percent rise in U.S. sales in October, its best month of the year so far.

The results from Mercedes followed the industry’s best monthly performance of 2009 outside of months in the summer that were boosted by the U.S. government “cash for clunkers” incentives program.

U.S. auto industry sales hit a 10.46 million unit annualized rate in October, the best monthly performance of the year outside of “clunkers” fueled July and August results.

Lieb, in an interview, said the industrywide sales atmosphere seems to be improving though it may be too early to say whether the U.S. auto market has turned a corner.

“I think it’s too early to say it’s turning,” Lieb said. “At best I would say it’s maybe some stabilization.”

“It (market) becomes a little bit more predictable, from a dealer perspective at least,” he added. “There seems to be some traffic. People are a little bit more willing to look at a new car and spending money.”

Auto sales in the United States have been hurt in the past year as customers tightened purse strings amid a weak economy. The economic meltdown came on the heels of already-weakening vehicle demand amid record-high gasoline prices last year.

Even luxury vehicle makers, who typically are more insulated from market volatility, suffered with the global credit crunch that has plunged the U.S. economy into recession and created a backlash against lavish and conspicuous spending.

Source: Reuters